Mammography is an X-ray that provides the sharpest images available of the breast's inner structure and is used to screen for breast cancer. It is very important in the early detection of breast cancer because it can find tumors and irregularities in the breast tissue while they are still too small to be felt by you or your doctor.  Mammography can show changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that mammography can detect 85 to 90 percent of breast cancers in women over 50.  And because it can detect them before they have spread to other parts of the body, mammography is also of value because it shows other changes in breast tissue, and the mammogram can be referred to later for comparison.

The American Medical Association recommends that women have a baseline mammogram by the age of forty and receive a mammogram every one to two years until age fifty. Women over fifty should have a mammogram every year. Because women who have a sister or mother with breast cancer are considered high risk, they may need a mammogram at a younger age or more often depending on family history. 

The Mammogram

e sure to schedule your mammogram at least seven days after your last period started and two weeks before your next period is expected. This is a time when breasts will be least tender. The test is not painful, but some women experience minor discomfort. 

If you have had a mammogram done previously, tell the radiology technician performing the exam. It is helpful to compare mammograms to detect subtle changes in the breast tissue. Try to obtain the previous x-rays for comparison before going to your appointment.

On the day of your mammogram, don't wear deodorant, talcum powder or cream under your arms. The aluminum content of those items may interfere with the quality of the mammogram. In addition, before the examination, you will be asked to remove all jewelry and clothing above the waist and you will be given a gown or loose-fitting material that opens in the front.

During mammography, a specially-qualified radiologist will position the patient and image the breast. The breast is first placed on a special cassette and compressed with a paddle (often made of clear Plexiglas or other soft plastic). Breast compression is necessary in order to:

  • Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
  • Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities won’t be obscured by overlying breast tissue.
  • Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount 
  • of breast tissue is being imaged.
  • Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion.
  • Reduce x-ray scatter which also leads to poor image quality.
Clustered microcalcifications (5+ microcalcifications) are one of the most important and often the only indicator for malign lesions.  About 30 to 50% of all breast cancer diseases show microcalcifications.

Clustered microcalcifications (5+ microcalcifications) are one of the most important and often the only indicator for malign lesions.  About 30 to 50% of all breast cancer diseases show microcalcifications.

Who Interprets the Results? 

A radiologist, who is a physician experienced in mammography and other x-ray examinations, will analyze the images, describe any abnormalities, and suggest a likely diagnosis. The report will be dictated by the radiologist, and then sent to our office for review. You will also be notified of the results by the mammography facility. Our office will also contact you once we have received the report and your physician has reviewed the findings. 

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Important symptoms to watch for include changes in breast contour; dimpling, scaling or puckering of the skin around the nipple; nipple secretion; a lump or thickening; or other changes that you feel are not normal. However, breast cancer symptoms are often not obvious - no lumps, pain, nothing. Also, most tumors are not cancerous. So, whether you think you have symptoms or not, check with your physician about the special benefits of mammography, since only its advanced technology can provide the most accurate symptom detection, and early enough for treatment and cure.

Early Detection is the Key

Remember that early detection of breast cancer is the key to treatment and cure, so examinations are important. However, individual examination needs vary. Due to a number of factors, including advancing age, family history, etc., some women are at higher risk than others. Of course, women with symptoms should see their doctor without hesitation. Women without symptoms should be sure to consult their physician to determine their individual breast examination needs.

Mammography Locations

The following facilities are available on the Peninsula for you to contact to schedule your mammogram:

  1. Mid-Atlantic Imaging Center: 750 McGuire Place, Newport News, VA 23601, 757-223-5059
  2. Riverside Diagnostic Center (Riverside Regional Medical Center): 12652 Jefferson Ave, Newport News, VA 23602, 757-875-2208
  3. Riverside Diagnostic Center (Warwick Medical & Professional Center): 12420 Warwick Blvd, Suite E, Newport News, VA 23606, 757-594-2773
  4. Riverside Diagnostic Center (Willow Oaks Shopping Center): 191 Fox Hill Rd, Hampton, VA 23669, 757-850-5703
  5. Breast Diagnostic Center (Healthcare Center, Hilton): 328-A Main Street, Newport News, VA 23601, 757-594-3712 
  6. TPMG Diagnostic Center (Oyster Point): 813 Diligence Drive, Suite 108, Newport News, VA 23606, 757-873-0848
  7. Riverside Diagnostic Center (Oyster Point): 895 Middle Ground Blvd, Newport News, VA 23606, 757-594-3900
  8. Mary Immaculate Hospital: 2 Bernadine Drive, Newport News, VA 23602, 757-886-6100
  9. Sentara CarePlex (Women's Imaging Center): 3000 Coliseum Drive, Hampton, VA, 757-727-7496
  10. Sentara Hampton General (Breast Services): 3120 Victoria Blvd, Hampton, VA 23669, 757-727-7496
  11. Leo P. O'Connell, M.D., Oyster Point Radiology: 11835 Fishing Point Drive, Suite 201, Newport News, VA 23606, 757-873-8823
  12. Leo P. O'Connell, M.D., Riverdale Radiologists: 2116 Executive Drive, Hampton, VA, 757-838-3068